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Is this the end of high-quality plastic recycling?

Also in Germany the recycling industry is demanding the government to take steps for a sustainable circular economy. Hopefully many countries will follow these initiatives and even more important: will governments take the necessary steps.

The article is from Der Grüne Punkt – 22. June 2020

The Green Dot (“Der Grüne Punkt”), Werner & Mertz and the German Association for the Waste, Water and Raw Materials Industries demand financial incentives and commitment from government.

“Der Grüne Punkt” produces recyclates (left) that go into the production of new bottles for cleaning products from Werner & Mertz (right). The recyclates – although significantly more environmentally friendly – are more expensive than comparable new plastic. Copyright Photo: Der Grüne Punkt

Plastic waste in private households increased by 10 percent in recent months as the numbers of home offices and Internet orders went up and the demand for recyclates – recycled plastic from plastic waste – decreased dramatically. What appears at first glance to be a paradox can be attributed to one cause – oil prices.  The corona pandemic brought about a sharp fall in the price of oil. Cheap crude oil lowers the cost of producing new plastic and thus reinforces new plastic’s privileged legal status in Germany as it is exempt from petroleum tax and EEC levies. In comparison, the material recycling of used plastic packaging is economically even less attractive. Many manufacturers which previously used recyclates for products and packaging are now switching back to new goods.

That means not only substantial losses for the recycling industry and a giant step backwards for climate and environmental protection, but also a huge blow to the circular economy!   
Consumers long ago recognized the danger. Surveys show that consumers see plastic as the greatest (environmental) problem. They expect solutions in favor of a sustainable economy and that has not been changed by the coronavirus.

The solution to the plastic pollution of our environment has been known for some time. Used plastic from post-consumer waste collections like the German Yellow Bag can now be recycled at such a high quality that it fulfills strict requirements for use in cosmetic packaging. Plastic remains in a closed cycle, where it becomes valuable raw material instead of polluting waste.

The technology of material recycling, however, is still pushed aside because the use of new plastic is cheaper in comparison.   

That’s why three representatives along the supply chain have issued a joint statement in which they demand that the German government use the impending transformation of the economy to establish a sustainable circular economy in general and the reuse of recyclates from used plastic in particular.   

Peter Kurth, President of BDE (German Association for the Waste, Water and Raw Materials Industries), appeals to the role model function of public procurement for sustainable management: “The decline in oil prices intensified the already difficult circumstances for many plastic recyclers. Expensively produced recyclates find no takers, investments in better recycling are put off or cancelled because refinancing appears impossible. Given the lack of political action, plastic recycling is threatened with severe damage. Anyone who wants a successful, sustainable economy has to employ suitable instruments that have been known for a long time. An altered procurement process that takes ecological aspects seriously should be at the top of the agenda.”

Reinhard Schneider, owner of the cleaning products company Werner & Mertz and winner of the German Environmental Award 2019, provides concrete solutions to balance out the existing financial disadvantage between the use of post-consumer recyclates (PCR) and of new goods in Germany. “The ecological differential in the purchase prices could be incorporated in the Packaging Law in Paragraph 21 in the form of a fund to which all producers would have to contribute. Only those who use recyclates should receive reimbursement. Additionally, a plastic tax could be introduced which would apply only to new goods, something Italy plans to do. That corresponds to cutting the subsidies for the manufacture of new goods in that the exemption from mineral oil tax and EEC levies no longer apply. The debated minimum utilization rate makes sense only when combined with incentivization for exceeding the minimum rate.”

Michael Wiener, CEO of The Green Dot (“Der Grüne Punkt”), says specifically about minimum utilization rate: “The potential of the circular economy for climate protection, especially for plastic, has not yet been exhausted. We are missing out on the economic opportunities the circular economy offers. A circular economy that earns the name creates jobs and brings urgently needed added value into the European Union. Instead, we are experiencing a complete market failure. Recycled plastic saves up to 50 percent in greenhouse gas emissions generated by new plastic, but that is not reflected in the price. Politicians have to set defined recyclate utilization goals for certain product groups in order to promote the creation of sustainable recyclate markets and provide the necessary investment security. In July 2020 the federal government will take over the EU Council Presidency – a good opportunity to advance relevant measures.”

Summary: A stronger focus on sustainability in public procurement, a fund system, a new plastic tax for new goods and a clearly defined minimum rate for the use of recyclates combined with financial incentives are instruments that will save plastic recycling from extermination and, after the corona crisis, will ensure a stable, sustainable circular economy as an important contribution to climate protection.   

The article addressing the same message in German language!
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Green Recovery Statement

Ruim 200 bedrijven hebben het Green Recovery Statement getekend, en Dutch PET Recycling is daar één van. Gezamenlijk pleiten we er voor om duurzaamheid als hoeksteen te nemen voor de corona-herstelplannen. 

Goed om te zien dat meer bedrijven duurzamer willen gaan ondernemen en pleiten voor een groen en sociaal herstel. Dit doen wij, en alle partners uit het netwerk van MVO Nederland natuurlijk al jaren. En dat is nodig, want slechts 12,1 procent van de economie is nu duurzaam. Samen bereiken we meer! 

Nieuwe Economie Index

In English:

More than 200 companies have signed the Green Recovery Statement, and Dutch PET Recycling is one of them. Together we argue in favor of taking sustainability as the cornerstone of the corona recovery plans.

It is good to see that more companies want to do business in a more sustainable way and that they advocate a green and social recovery. We, and all partners from the MVO Nederland network, have been doing this for years. And that is necessary, because only 12.1 percent of the economy is now sustainable. Together we achieve more!

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Spain’s proposed plastics tax receives lukewarm reception

Does the competition become more equal for rPET vs virgin? Or will the total use of plastic be reduced in favor of alternative (packaging) material?

An interesting article about virgin plastic tax, shared by DutchPETRecycling.

By Matt Tudball (ICIS), Additional reporting by Caroline Murray

Spain’s proposed tax on virgin plastics, announced recently as part of the government’s circular economy strategy, has received a mixed reaction from the European polymers markets. A series of measures that make up the strategy is expected to include a €0.45/kg tax on non-reusable plastic packaging following similar measures adopted elsewhere in Europe including the UK and Italy.

Sources in the market had a lukewarm outlook on the benefit of the tax – the first to be announced by an EU member state since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak – with several comparing it to the €450/ton Italian virgin plastics tax – which has been postponed until 2021 in light of the pandemic.

“We used plastic products during the covid-19 emergency and now they are thinking of a tax on plastics from January 2021. We are at the level Italy was a year ago,” a Spanish polymers trader said.

“It’s the same discussion Italy had. They asked for €1/kg then reduced the figure after a huge fight between the plastics sector and the government… and now we will have to go through the same fight. Nobody learns from others,” the trader added.

Others were less pessimistic. “This is a tax paid by everybody – everyone is in the same conditions to compete,” one polyethylene terephthalate (PET) producer said.

“The second point is how strong PET material is versus the other [polymers]… I don’t believe that people will go to the supermarket to buy a glass bottle of water. At the end of the day, we will all pay more and the government will get more money. If we all compete on the same terms, it’s more than welcome,” the producer added.

It currently is unclear whether products with a certain percentage of recycled content will be exempt, but this looks likely if Spain follow the same principles as the UK and Italy. In terms of the impact on the recycled market, a buyer of recycled PET (R-PET) believes it may increase competition for post-consumer bottles, the feedstock for the R-PET market.

“Bottles will be scarce, that is for sure. Either collection increases exponentially or we will all be running after the same feedstock material,” the buyer said.

The Italian tax on virgin plastics with less than 30% recycled material was meant to incentivize bottle producers and others to increase the amount of recycled plastic in their product. But as with the UK tax, there are concerns about the size of the tax and whether it will be enough to encourage converters to move away from virgin given current low PET prices.

Using the example of the UK tax, a UK-based PET buyer said, “£200/ton is not enough. If the premium to use recycled content is £600-700, it won’t make people use recycled material – unless people do it for marketing purposes.”

On the other hand, recyclers are worried that the tax will deter consumers from buying plastic products altogether – and more to goods packaged in paper, glass or cardboard.

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Dutch PET Recycling has signed the PACT!

May 1st 2020 Signatory European Plastics Pact

Dutch PET Recycling is proud to announce that they have signed the European Plastics Pact. We fully endorse the goals and will use our knowledge to contribute in reaching them.

Infographic European Plastics Pact

More information about the European Plastics Pact you can find in this article.

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How Corona affects our business pt. 2

By Roel Wollaert; Dutch PET Recycling _________ Arnhem, 21 April 2020

Some weeks ago, we started with an article about our business during the Corona or COVID-19 crisis. In this article we will give an update on how we are dealing with the circumstances and what we see happening around us.

In our own working process, nothing has changed drastically. We are used to work in a global network where we have contact with our suppliers and customers at a distance. However, not all parties concerned have the availability of all tools. That’s why, sometimes, we have to be patient and understanding. Especially in countries where a lockdown forces you to stay at home and one is not able to contact the bank for a transaction or check upon the Chamber of commerce for a Certificate of Origin.

Using disposable gloves, syringes, insulin pens, masks, catheters etcetera reduces the risks of infections. But it also makes the work process easier and faster because less material has to be sterilized.

In non-medical industries, plastic use is also increasing. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts forbid reusable cups; the food industry is using more plastic to extend the shelf life and now uses the argument that plastic is more hygienic and easier to use. Restaurants try to survive by offering take away food in…(rPET-made) plastic boxes. Plastic protection screens are used for cashiers in supermarkets. Everywhere around you, more plastic is used due to COVID-19!

One may be worried about the limited volumes entering collection systems. Consumers (recycling) behavior is changing. People are buying bottles, but they don’t bring them back, they store it. Collectors in Asian and African countries are facing restrictions to do their job. Many will be looking at how used PET bottles are returned to the recycling stream during the outbreak. The availability of rPET might become scarce.

Demand for virgin PET has already increased significantly in March as Europeans began to buy food and other necessities in higher volumes. Plans of using more recycled plastic and reduce plastic waste, sometimes, seem to be no longer a top priority.

Cashiers behind plastic screens.

Another concern is the impact on logistics. Several countries have closed their borders and restricted the movement of goods and people, getting material to and from harbors and recycling units. Until now we only had some minor problems but recently most transport was running smoothly again.

Social distancing will become a way of life the coming months and maybe years. What this will do to our business is not easy to predict. For the time being, the majority of the recycling industry continues to operate without too much problems. Sudden local problems we will be able to handle, as our network is diversified. We will see what the future will bring us.

For now: Stay safe, healthy, and take care of the environment!

On behalf of all employees and agents at Dutch PET Recycling.

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How Corona affects our business

By Roel Wollaert; Dutch PET Recycling _________ Arnhem, 27 March 2020

Normally our posts are about market developments and news within the rPET or circular plastic industry. But the news nowadays is of course about the Corona virus. It affects all of us around the world. In this article we will give a brief overview how it has affected us so far and we will share some thoughts with you.

At Dutch PET Recycling everybody is working at home. Communication still goes rapidly with video calls and mailing. What we do miss is the face-to-face contact with our suppliers and customers. We are convinced that seeing is believing. That’s why we normally visit our suppliers and their production facilities. The time saved by not travelling we now use online. For example to promote our new website: www.dutchpetrecycling.com

At the beginning of 2020 the prospects for the recycling industry were very promising. Awareness about waste reduction and reducing CO2 emission is constantly growing. People do sort their waste more and more. Collection of waste becomes more efficient. Governments are setting targets for recycling and industries are thinking more about sustainable product designs and commit themselves to use more recycled material.

That all is good news for our suppliers. Some of them are relatively small companies, where quite a lot of families depend on. As far as we know now, the virus hasn’t caught them. Besides the health threat of Corona also an economic crisis is coming. Collecting waste might become more difficult. That will differ per region and luckily for us and our customers we have a great network of suppliers.

Sea transport is already facing some problems. Some ports do have restrictions or are locked down for a period. But most of the ports are still operating and must do that to keep the necessary (food) chains working. Also here people are working out of their home (office). This sometimes causes  delay in communication. Also prices fluctuate a lot. Overall we are very satisfied with our freight forwarders who constantly think along with us to keep the service as high as possible.

The good news in relation to our customers is that most of them operate within the food chain. Plastic packaging for confectionery or fresh food. Being an essential producer means that you don’t need to go in a lock down.

We hope and wish that everyone stays healthy. The market developments before the Corona outbreak looked very promising and we are convinced that the world will conquer the virus. It will be a matter of time. The longer it takes the worser the economic crisis will be. But at the end we think the recycling industry has a promising future ahead and that we will quickly recover from this temporarily relapse.

Wishing you and all your beloved ones a healthy and economic fruitful future.

On behalf of all employees and agents at Dutch PET Recycling.

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Plastics and Climate: A deal for the future!

This article published by PlasticsEurope gives you good examples why plastics and climate can be an ideal combination. Especially if recycled PET or Food Grade pellets are used.

When it comes to climate change mitigation, plastics have a great story to tell.

Europe can only succeed on the global stage if it drives also the transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and circular economy. For this to happen, plastics enable the innovations that are needed by a sustainability strategy – such as the European Green Deal – to deliver.

Key for Europe’s building & construction renovation wave

You do not necessarily see plastics in your building, but they are there. Plastics are a springboard for the renovation wave in the building sector as they enable big energy savings and are carbon efficient. Plastic insulation improves the energy efficiency of your home, which translates into a positive impact on climate. In fact, it saves up to 80% of your energy consumption and 250 times more energy than used to produce it.


This revolutionary home could be a game-changer. (JD Composites)

“Tectonic” shift towards sustainable mobility

You may not be aware of where plastics are used in your car, but they are doing their job for you – in car body parts, airbags, carpets, electrification, under the hood, to name but a few.

Thanks to its lightweight properties, plastics contribute efficiently to fuel savings which translate into lower CO2 emissions in diverse fields of transport, including electric mobility. Plastics enable up to 35% fuel savings compared to components made from other materials.


Plastics are used a lot in cars

Preserving food from farm to fork

Food waste is one of the biggest challenges of our society. Plastic packaging saves food by protecting it from external factors – damage, deterioration, spoilage from farm to fork and ensuring hygiene. Research shows that, if food were packed in a material other than plastics, the related energy consumption would double, greenhouse gas emissions would nearly triple, overall weight of packaging would quadruple, and food waste would increase.

The weight of plastic packaging has been reduced by more than 35% over a 20-year period. Lightweight packaging means lighter loads or fewer lorries needed to ship the same amount of products, helping to reduce transportation energy, decrease emissions and lower shipping costs.

Transforming the energy sector

Plastics enable the production of clean and renewable energy as windmill blades and solar panels are made with plastics. In a nutshell, plastics can make the difference by providing solutions for affordable renovation of households, sustainable transport, easier access to safe food, clean, reliable and affordable energy.

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“PET industry needs to focus on circularity and stop defending plastics”

“PET industry needs to focus on circularity and stop defending plastics”

PETCore President Stephen Short

By Matt Tudball

BRUSSLES (ICIS)–The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) market needs to focus on the positivity of circularity rather than trying to defend plastics, PETCore President Stephen Short said.

Opening the 2020 PETCore annual conference in Brussels, Short, addressing the 300-strong audience, said it is time to stop defending PET because “we have lost that battle”.

Instead, he said, the industry needs to play to its strengths, and to focus on the positive message of proving the recyclability of PET.

“We are in a zero tolerance world for plastic,” Short said. “We can’t speak about recycling, we have to prove it.”

This was a theme echoed throughout the opening day of the conference, with Christian Crépet, Executive Director Petcore Europe adding that the PET industry has an advantage over other polymers because it can be 100% recycled.

Another common theme running through the first day of the conference is for the industry to work harder and smarter to educate and inform consumers and policy makers on the benefits of PET when compared to other materials such as glass, paper and aluminium.

Paccor’s Nicolas Lorenz said the industry has the opportunity to inform the consumer around topics like CO2 emissions from plastics and other packaging materials, giving a balanced view on the advantages and drawbacks of each.

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Gerecycled polyester in álle kleding van Adidas

A good example of a manufacturer using recycled PET within the circular industry. A win-win situation for everyone. The article is in Dutch!

Beeld: Adidas

Adidas zal dit jaar nog minstens de helft van het polyester in zijn kledinglijnen uit tweedehands bronnen halen. Ook komen er shirts en broeken op de markt waarin 100 procent van het polyester gerecycled is. In 2024 is ál het polyester gerecycled.

| DOOR: MARC SEIJLHOUWER | https://www.duurzaambedrijfsleven.nl/

De plannen van het kledingmerk komen niet uit de lucht vallen. De afgelopen jaren nam het aandeel gerecyclede polyester toe; hardloopbroeken bestaan bijvoorbeeld al voor 55 procent uit gerecycled polyester. En in 2012 bracht Adidas kleding voor Olympische atleten met 100 procent gerecycled polyester.

Nu gaat het bedrijf recycling grootschalig  toepassen. Daarmee is veel milieuwinst te boeken: polyester is een van de vervuilendste kledingmaterialen. Per ton vezel komt er zeven kilo CO2 vrij. Ter vergelijking: bij katoen is dat gemiddeld drie kilo.

Recycling kost minder energie

Voor Adidas is het gebruik van gerecycled polyester ook financieel interessant; de productie kost minder energie en bespaart daarom geld. De kwaliteit is net zo goed als die van ‘nieuw’ polyester. Adidas maakt het gerecyclede polyester van plastic petflessen. Dat maakproces kost 20 tot 60 procent minder energie dan plastic uit olie. De grote variatie in besparing komt doordat de kwaliteit van petflessen-afval kan wisselen.

Het is de vraag om Adidas’ duurzame ambities waargemaakt kunnen worden met plasticafval. Er moet namelijk wel genoeg (schoon) plastic beschikbaar zijn om de productie vol te houden. Adidas is niet de enige partij die petflessen wil gebruiken als alternatief voor kunstmatig textiel.

Terug naar de natuur

In 2030 moet de voetafdruk van Adidas met 30 procent gedaald zijn in vergelijking met 2017. Daarvoor recycled het niet alleen polyester; het bedrijf maakt ook schoenen van oceaanplastic en het heeft plannen om kleding circulair te maken. “Elk Adidas-product heeft straks meerdere levens en kan tenslotte terugkeren naar de natuur”, aldus de website.

BRON: ADIDAS | BEELD: ADIDAS

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Reference Logistics

“Transport of containers on sea and all of the necessary paperwork is quite challenging. We got help of the logistics department of Dutch PET Recycling, their Agent and Freight Forwarder. We learned very rapidly how to do it. For instance a template for a packing list and advise on REX-registration. Al together it saved us time and costs.”